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IU Journalism: In Kenya, Students Teach Each Other
When IU School of Journalism student Natasha Seitz entered the one-room home in the Langas slum in the city of Eldoret, Kenya, she was overwhelmed by an act of hospitality.
A senior at IUPUI, she was there as part of an IU journalism class, “Reporting on HIV/AIDS in Africa.” Her task: craft three stories related to HIV/AIDS in Eldoret, the site of an internationally celebrated partnership between IU and Moi University and their respective schools of medicine. The partnership’s principal project, the Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare (AMPATH), focuses on the treatment of HIV and other health concerns, as well as the social and economic impacts of living with HIV.
In the home, she met Daniel, 16, the head of this household that includes six children. His father had died of AIDS. His mother had disappeared. There was a stool, a bed, and some sheets. “He dusted off the stool and put the bed sheets on it, insisting I take the best seat in the house,” Natasha recalled. “It was incredibly humbling.”
Natasha’s three-week experience in Kenya was the product of another significant partnership between IU and Moi University. While in Eldoret, she was paired with a Moi student to form a reporting team. IU Professor Jim Kelly says the idea of pairing a Hoosier with a Kenyan was not his own.
“You can only learn so much from a textbook or a lecture.”
“I just stole AMPATH’s model,” notes Professor Kelly, who created the class. “And it was successful. Most students said they learned as much from their reporting colleague as they did from me. That was true whether it was a Kenyan or an IU student.”
For a dozen years now, Kelly has been teaching workshops that bring nongovernmental organizations together with professional working journalists covering HIV/AIDS. He has organized workshops throughout East Africa and South Asia. “The two groups have such similar aims, which is to improve society around them,” he says, “yet they have little idea of how the other works.”
This year, Professor Kelly created a similar experience for his IU students via a class that is part of the school’s Journalism Experiences Program, which promotes journalism education through experiential learning. For some, the class was so enticing they delayed their graduation and took the course without needing the credits.
It was worth it. Kelly believes that travel alters perception and broadens perspectives, key for journalists who must look at issues from many vantage points. Further, he says, there are special challenges in working with the HIV/AIDS patients.
“Anyone who is HIV-positive is a vulnerable source,” he says. “You have to make sure he or she understands the nature and possible outcomes of your reporting. These are delicate issues journalists must deal with, and they come to the forefront of the students’ minds.”
Natasha encountered such issues when she began to search for sources in and around the AMPATH clinic. There, she ran up against strict privacy rules for patients and had to adjust her reporting to accommodate the need for patient confidentiality. It was a learning moment for Natasha, who is studying public relations and hopes to work for an NGO in Africa. “It was really informative to see the issue from the reporter’s side,” she says. “You can only learn so much from a textbook or lecture. And you really learn the value of making connections and building relationships with people.”
This class is but one of many programs through which the IU School of Journalism is expanding its students’ experiences. From Europe to South America and from Asia to Africa, the school is providing critical experiences for students like Natasha. Through donor support, the cost of such programs can be reduced, making them more accessible to more students. For further information, contact Dean Brad Hamm at firstname.lastname@example.org about how you can help bring a world of experiences to IU students.